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Kamehameha Statues

Helen G. Chapin, Courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society

In 1878, the Hawaiian legislature appropriated $10,000 for a monument to be built honoring Kamehameha the Great. Well-known Boston sculptor Thomas R. Gould was commissioned for the work. After the statue was cast in bronze in Florence, Italy, it was placed on board a Hawai‘i-bound German vessel in Bremen. In November of 1880, the entire cargo -- along with the statue -- went down off the Falkland Islands.

A year and a half later, in March of 1882, a British ship arrived in Honolulu with the statue on board -- a British sea captain had seen it as it was being fished out of the water in the Falklands, purchased it, and brought it to Hawai‘i.

In the meantime, a new statue had been commissioned. This arrived the following year, on January 31, 1883. With honor guard and great ceremony, it was carried by horse to Ali‘iōlani Hale, on King Street, where King Kalākaua unveiled it and the Royal Hawaiian Band played "Hawai‘i Pono‘ī."

The original statue was sent to Kohala, Kamehameha’s birthplace, and Kalākaua traveled to the Big Island for another ceremony on Sunday, May 6, 1883.

Thus, Hawai‘i has two Kamehameha statues. It is the replica that stands in Honolulu today. On any given day, one can see the handsome, life-sized figure with its bronzed helmet and feather cloak bedecked in lei. The great King’s statue in Honolulu is one of the most photographed in the world.